Day 11. Tuesday August 8.

 

Overnight in Marree was very cold but the morning sky and sun were spectacular. Before departing we visited the Tom Kruse museum display within the pub and what a little gem. Tom had been a mail contractor and lash-up mechanic, driving in all weathers between Marree and Birdsville. A film called Back of Beyond had been made about his feats. The museum also had a collection of prints by the botanist Hergott who had accompanied McDouall-Stuart on his epic treks. The pub is a lovely building, in need of serious repair, but is the busy hub of Marree. The Ghan engines rusting at the station are a proud reminder of the original Great Northern rail story.

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The Oodnadatta Track is a reasonable stretch of gravel with corrugated and smooth sections. After some of those rough sections D looked in the rear vision mirror to check that the KK was still attached – a useless exercise as the mirrors were vibrating so much, you could see nothing clearly – but the van remained connected anyway. It is an arid travelling route of salt lakes, mesas, railway sleeper relics, artesian springs, very little visible fauna and plenty of 4WD outfits.

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Highlights were the springs which have guaranteed travellers a freshwater supply from the depths of the Great Artesian Basin for thousands of years and at one spot flocks of red-beak avocets were sweeping for lunch.

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And a large field of sculptures that seemed to be a protest against unranium mining and Roxby Downs in particular: it had a very Mad Max feel about it!

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And for Theo…..

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Another highlight was accessing the shoreline of Lake Eyre South on foot where we marveled at the visual trick whereby a sea of salt actually looks like a body of water, reflecting the blue of the sky. And there were strips of white which could have been waves breaking on the shoreline. No wonder early explorers went crazy in this environment.

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About 10kms out of William Creek we passed a cyclist (no, not Japanese) weaving his path – on the right side of the road. Forty minutes later T chatted to him as he arrived at the campground. He’d set out from Sydney 2 months ago and was heading for Alice. He confessed to being at an uncertain stage…whether to look for a lift for the last 600kms. He didn’t seem mad at all (but surely must be?) and explained his ‘weaving’ as picking his way around sand drifts. He has been surprised at how people and camels ‘have appeared out of nowhere’ in his desert ride and no, it’s too early for the Japanese cyclists; they tend to appear when the weather gets hot.

William Creek is a pub, a campground and an airstrip. T has booked a Lake Eyre flight for tomorrow morning. D will pack up and meet her off the tiny plane for Day 2 on the track. D has been informed over dinner of T’s cunning plan for Day 3 – more to follow on this one.

 

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